Liberian citizens, including many of its subsistence farmers across the country, are expected to hear from President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf this coming Monday, January 27, on progress her administration has made in addressing the country’s food security as she delivers her Annual Message to the National Legislature.
Due to Liberia’s 14-year civil crisis, the agriculture sector has been completely devastated leaving it many challenges.
But what has the government done for nearly a decade now to ensure that this viable sector becomes revamped to create employment for many of the citizens as way of sustaining the peace.
In her 2013 state of the nation address, the President disclosed achievements in restoring dignity to the sector.
“The agriculture sector of Liberia remains the key sector of the economy for employment creation, poverty reduction, food security and income generation. To meet the challenges of achieving the full potential of the sector, my administration has focused on capacity building through training both locally and abroad. Through financial arrangements with international partners, matched by government funding, some 1,895 persons have received training, of which 1,643 are trained through scholarship grants at local institutions.
The Central Agricultural Research Institute (CARI) has been restructured and has, for the first time since its destruction in 1980, reopened the National Seed Bank that today stores certified seed rice for use by local farmers. Deposits of certified seeds are both from CARI and local farmers.
To better reach local farmers with training, farm inputs and value-addition facilities, the government has constructed Agricultural Technology Transfer Centers around the country, four of which have been built in Nimba, River Gee, Grand Bassa and Maryland. Three others, in Lofa, Bong and Gbarpolu, are under construction,” she mentioned in her 2013 annual massage.
However, in spite of all these achievements there is much more to be done to improve agriculture for the reduction of poverty in the lives of Liberian farmers.
In 2005 government regarded agriculture as the center of its poverty reduction strategy. Yet, many farmers are still living in abject poverty. This is because many farm-to-market roads in the country are yet to be improved to enable farmers to carry their produce to the market on time.
Marketing is a major challenge for farmers in the country.
In 2013 the President made mention of the improvement of few feeder roads in her annual massage. These include the rehabilitation of the Kolahun Junction to Vahun to the Bomasue and the Totota/Sanoyea/Phebe junction road.
If farmers are going to improve in agriculture to increase food production, government must allot more money in the national budget to support agriculture.
The current budget for agriculture stands at 2.4 percent which is far below the Maputu Declaration on food security, which mandates African leaders to put 10 percent in their national budget for agriculture.
Most of the funding to support the sector comes from external sources.
Though the country has competing demands for its reconstruction drive, agriculture still remains the most viable sector for the economy.